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Chris Anzaldua
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Cat Bachelor Extraordinaire.
Cat Bachelor Extraordinaire.

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This may not look like it, but it's about gaming. Bear with me. 


Back in late 2012 or so, Jeff Bezos made a big splash with news of how meetings are run at Amazon.  Staff meetings are two hours long, there is no powerpoint, and the first half hour is spent reading a meticulously crafted 6 page memo, which then provides the framework for the meeting.

This can seem very weird on the face of it, but there are a lot of interesting and clever things going on here:
- The act of drafting he document forces a lot of thought and structure into the material on hand. Implicitly, this also sharpens the question of why the meeting must happen in the first place. 
- By making time for the material in the meeting, but by also making it an essential part of the process, it avoids TL:DR(1)
- Having a common point of reference makes conversation much clearer, as you can speak directly to "Page 2, paragraph 3" 
- It creates an artifact.
- The start time of the meeting is organically softened, and is only to the detriment of the person who comes late (since they must read faster), not the people who would normally be waiting for that person.

I fully admit I have never gone as hard core as Amazon, largely because the prospect of a 2 hour meeting is something that fills me with dread.  But I have done this very successfully on a smaller scale - one or two pages in 5 to 15 minutes is more my speed. It gets similar rewards with less overhead.  If you have a problem with meetings that kind of amble and leave everyone wondering why they're wasting time, I would recommend trying it.  The book, Read This Before Our Next Meeting is a great starting point.

I mention all this because it has struck me that there is no reason the idea could not be ported to an RPG session.  Start it out with 5 minutes quietly reading a single sheet of information.  Gets people on the page without a lot of weird GM convolutions or rambling boxed text. 

The instinctive resistance to the idea comes from a little voice that says "Games shouldn't be work!", but I am skeptical of that voice.  First off, games are work, and if you are in a situation where they are only work for the GM, that's kind of a crappy arrangement.  In that case, five minutes of reading(2) won't kill you.  But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it's a question of effort to reward - I suspect the rewards (similar to those from a meeting) will outweigh the 5 minutes of effort.  Practically, I expect most of the resistance to his approach would come out of habit. 

Most, but not all.  This is also more work for the GM - the act of writing this one pager so that it's useful is actually a non-trivial challenge (both in terms of quality and level of effort).  That is probably a much bigger barrier than player adoption.  Consider convention game handouts.  If you've played in any number of convention games you have probably seen handouts of every different level of quality and clarity.  They fall into common traps of over or under explaining, or of being too much about what's important to the GM,  not the players. But when done right, they can get a game off on the right foot.  To some extent, this idea of pre-reading is just 

Anyway, I share this idea in advance of experimentation. If nothing else, for folks going into Metatopia, I might suggest that taking the time to prepare something like this might be one more experiment worth trying. (And, of course, if anyone already does something like this, I'd be very curious to hear about it)

Sources:
- AMAZON STAFF MEETINGS: “NO POWERPOINT” - http://conorneill.com/2012/11/30/amazon-staff-meetings-no-powerpoint/
- Flipped meetings: Learning from Amazon’s meeting policy - http://research.gigaom.com/2013/10/flipped-meetings/
- Read This Before Our Next Meeting - http://www.amazon.com/Read-This-Before-Next-Meeting/dp/159184827X/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8  
 
Notes:
 (1) Critically, there is no expectation that anyone has read in advance, nor any effort made to provide material early, so the reading time is also a shared experience.
 
 (2) - Caveat - If there are reasons reading won't work in your group, such as vision, then obviously don't impose this on them, or find another way.  

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Well, I'm stealing this for my classroom. 

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I'm just sharing this for the eleven people in the world who haven't seen it.

Those shots of our planet always bring tears to my eyes. That's us, that's where we live, and we dont' have anywhere else to go. We should probably take better care of it.

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What does TASER stand for? The JC in JC Penny? Find out in today's mental floss video, 56 Acronyms and Initialisms. 56 Acronyms and Initialisms - mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.7) 

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